With two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan missing the Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga Race Course, which he has won the last two years, the race is looking pretty tough.
The quick Silver Max, who won the Grade II Bernard Baruch last year in his only other race here, promises to be on the front end of the mile run on the inner turf today. The 9-5 morning-line favorite has won four of his last five races, all gate-to-wire, all graded stakes. He beat Wise Dan in last year’s Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, then was fourth to Wise Dan in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile, the one time since May of 2013 that he hasn’t been able to make the lead in the first few jumps.
“He’s going to the front like he always does,” trainer Dale Romans told the New York Racing Association. “If someone can run by him, I want to buy him. He’s got himself in peak form. Mother Nature made a fast horse with stamina.”
The horse that may make Romans want to reach for his checkbook, were he for sale, is Sayaad.
Sayaad is fresh off a front-running win in the Forbidden Apple at Belmont on July 4, recording a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
Silver Max’s win in the Grade II Firecracker at Churchill Downs on June 28 was his first race since November. Before winning the Forbidden Apple, Sayaad, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Shadwell Stable, was unraced since October.
“He’s a nice horse,” McLaughlin said. “He just missed eight months with an abscess and feet issues from October to July. He’s won his last three. We got him on the right surface and he’s fast, and we’ve found the right distance, and he’s doing well. So, luckily, Shadwell is patient. For all those months off, he never left the barn with the abscess. Obviously, Silver Max is speed, too, so we have to work out a trip.”
The 3-1 third choice is Seek Again, who has raced twice this year, finishing second by a head to Wise Dan in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs in May, then third by 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade I Manhattan at Belmont in June.
Those races went nine furlongs and 10 furlongs, respectively. Trainer Bill Mott thinks shortening him up may pay off.
“We felt like if he ran here and he was real effective at a mile, there were probably a few more opportunities at a mile between now and the end of the year,” Mott said. “We may find out a mile is too short, but he’s already won at seven. We hope there is something to keep the pace honest along with Silver Max.”
The second choice is 5-2 Jack Milton, who has taken a short time off since finishing a close fifth in the Grade I Shoemaker at Santa Anita on June 14. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he may have brought Jack Milton back too soon after winning the Grade III Poker on May 26.
Well-rested now, he will look to score as he did in his two starts before the Shoemaker, coming from off the pace.
“Ideally, he would like to sit off the pace and make one run, but depending on the pace of the race, we’ll just play it by ear,” Pletcher said.
The six-horse field is rounded out by an uncoupled pair of horses trained by Bryan Lynch, Dorsett and Grand Arch.
Hall of Fame trainers Lukas, Shug McGaughey and Mott, along with Pletcher, the all-time Saratoga Race Course win leader, will headline a group of at least 25 trainers on hand to sign autographs Sunday to raise money for pancreatic cancer research.
From 11:30 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. outside the jockeys silks room, fans can get autographs from the trainers for a $5 donation to the Lustgarten Foundation in memory of trainer Domini Galluscio, who died March 17.
Also expected are trainers Bobby Barbara, Jim Bond, Chad Brown, Bruce Brown, David Cannizzo, Carl Domino, Chris Englehart, Jeremiah Englehart, Mitch Friedman, Gary Gullo, Mike Hushion, David Jacobson, Jimmy Jerkens, Steve Klesaris, Pat Kelly, Bruce Levine, McLaughlin, Rudy Rodriguez, Dominic Schettino, Gary Sciacca, Phil Serpe, Barclay Tagg, John Terranova, Wesley Ward and George Weaver.
WORKING FOR THE WEEKEND
In preparation for the $1.25 million Grade I Travers on Aug. 23, Jim Dandy-winner Wicked Strong turned in a four-furlong work in :48.71. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:01 3/5.
“I thought it was good,” Jerkens said. “I told [exercise rider Kevin Pahal] to start out easy, and that’s the beauty of working over here at the Oklahoma, they don’t overdo it. I thought everything was perfect; it was just what we wanted. The time was just right, and he seemed to gallop out on his own, willingly.”
Wicked Strong won the Wood Memorial in April before fourth-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.
Working toward the Grade I Woodward on Aug. 30, Moreno jogged over the main track Thursday and Friday for the first time since winning the $1.5 million Grade I Whitney on Aug. 2, going a mile both times. Trainer Eric Guillot said he’ll keep Moreno jogging until a week before the Woodward, then put in a more serious workout.
Moreno wired the field in the Whitney, and Guillot considered the possibility opposing trainers may employ a “rabbit” in the Woodward to push Moreno’s pace and tire him out.
“If they have to do that, it makes me feel great,” Guillot said. “Do they not realize where I come from? I’ve been hunting rabbit all my life. I’ve been skinning rabbit since I was a kid and eating a baloney sandwich with the same hand. Do you think a rabbit’s going to hurt me? Come on.”
Dallas Stewart sent out Unbridled Forever to work toward the Grade I Alabama on Aug. 16, covering five furlongs in 1:00.40 on the main track. Stewart thinks the 1 1/4 distance of the Alabama will suit her.
“She’ll probably run the same type of race,” he said. “She’ll be off the pace, strong finish. The extra furlong will probably be the difference.”